This year I’m involved in OU’s Vietnamese Student Association again and had the opportunity of going to Baylor University’s Lunar Moon Festival as OU VSA’s Vice President External. Through going to the external event I was not only able to meet many involved students on Baylor’s campus as well as within UVSA South’s community, but also garner knowledge for how to improve and regulate our VSA at OU! All in all, Baylor’s campus is extremely beautiful and the drive down was definitely worth the hassle. The night started with formal introductions of different schools within the southern region and ended with a traditional lion dance. The event included performances from different VSA’s and cultural performances from different student organizations on campus including the University of Texas’s VSA and Lambda Phi Epsilon.
In the fall I went to one of the Latin American Luncheons hosted by the College of international Studies. The luncheon was really nice and extremely informative. The luncheon covered how some Latin American countries have used conditional cash transfers to aid those in poverty. Conditional cash transfers are government exchanges of cash in exchange for families in poverty putting their children through formal education and keeping them there. Thing like student attendance in classes were recorded and kept to allow the cash transfers to continue. The luncheon covered several programs in Latin America such as Brazil’s Bolsa Familia and Columbia’s Susidios Condicionados a La Asistencia Escolar. The lunchon aimed to talk about the success and failure of these programs as well as how they can improve. One issue with the program regards the recent sense of political disdain towards it. Although in some areas, Conditional Cash Transfers have proved to be beneficial to both the community and impoverished families by increasing the amount of children in school while alleviating families in poverty, in others, citizens in Latin America have started to hold a sense of distain towards the programs. Wealthier officials often believe that these programs are wasting tax paying money and giving it to a undeserving sect of the population.
All in all, conditional cash transfer programs like Bolsa Familia rely on the support of its citizens to ensure its continuation and prosperity. They can be extremely beneficial to poverty stricken areas by providing lower class citizens with the means to feed and support themselves but rely on the families underneath them to ensure satisfactory improvements and results.
During the fall semester I decided to go see this movie based off an email I got from the Global Engagement Advisor, Bushra! The movie covered the tale of two young women trying to get an illegal abortion in Romania. Above all else, the movie showcases issues with gender equality in Romania. Although the Romanian government has made efforts to increase and support gender equality, the government still has a long way towards attaining equality. Overall, the movie was extremely realistic and offered a grim portrayal of the reality of how some women have to attain the ability to abort their fetuses in Romania. The movie seemed to reflect the reality of women’s rights after the Decree of 770 in 1966. In 1966 the Decree strongly rendered the rights of women by deeming them as second class citizens with no rights to be heard. During this period, sexual education and the use of contraceptives were scarce in the Romanian state.
Personally, I found the movie hard to watch because it reflects the dark reality of many women today. The world still has a long way before attaining reasonable forms of socioeconomic, gender, and racial equality.
This week I had the opportunity to attend Into the Mainstream: Explaining the Rise of Radical Populist Parties in Europe. The lecture was held at Zarrow Hall by Dr. Reinhard Heinisch. I decided to attend this lecture purely out of obligation. I realized that this lecture would not only count towards my Global Engagement requirements but it would also count as an extra credit opportunity in my Understanding the Global Community class. In this lecture, Dr. Reinhard Heinisch attempted to explain the rise of radical populist parties in Europe and the long-term implications of this phenomena. In general, populism is the political doctrine that proposes that the common people are exploited by a privileged elite and seeks to solve this. From the lecture, it seems that populism In recent years, Europe has experienced a rise in radical populism and it isn’t just a momentary trend. It’s on the rise because this kind of party is highly mobile, flexible, and represents more than just one pool of voters. In fact, in the lecture, Dr. Reinard Heize, explained that populism steals from both left and right wing parties. As a result, the rise and growth of populism in Europe has caused rises in emerging political parties, nationalism/nativism and anti-globalist views.
I thoroughly enjoyed the lecture but wish Dr. Reinhard would’ve delved more into the effects of populism and its future implications. Overall, increased nationalism and anti-globalist views in Europe is alarming and leads me to question whether this rise in populism will lead to large increases in racism and paranoia in Europe. The rise of anti-immigration and anti-Muslim views already seems to be proof of this. The masses in Europe seem to fear losing their social identity and sense of control. Moreover, how far will the rise in populism set globalist ideals back? For the most part, in recent years, the world has undergone a steady process of globalization that has spread trade, technology, and capital across global boundaries. However, as the rise of nationalism and nativism increases in Europe the masses will undoubtedly want to stray away from the globalist agenda. I feel that in the upcoming years this could eventually mean decreases in international correspondence and negotiation as every country will be more concerned with their own social and political agenda. Alarmingly, this could in turn also weaken larger international bodies like NATO and the United Nations. However, the bigger concern is that, the world can’t afford this type of social and political development. In order to ensure changes in larger issues like inequality and environmental sustainability, cooperation and understanding need to be continued.
Last week, I attended Language and Religion: The Case of Arabic. The speaker, Dr. Muhammad S. Eissa, is an independent scholar who has taught Arabic since 1966. In this lecture, Dr. Muhammad explained the significance of language and how it affects how we practice and perceive religion. He placed the largest emphasis on how the Arabic language affects how Muslims practice and perceive the Quran. Language is often largely associated with identity. Therefore, in most cases, if an individual associates a language with a religion than it begins to alter their perception and understanding of that religion. The language of the Quran has always been the Arabic language. According to Dr. Muhammad, for Muslims to truly recognize the Quran, the book has to be in the Arabic. The teachings behind the Quran are altered if the book is translated in another language. In short, the translated Quran, is no longer the Quran. This seems to be in part, because of diglosia, the situation when two languages are used in different conditions within the community.
Overall, Dr. Muhammad left his topic open ended and only lightly touched base with its significance. However, I was relatively intrigued by the points he made during his lecture. The biggest question I had during his discussion was whether the Arabic language hinders teaching and interpreting the Quran to different groups of people. Although I understand there will be discrepancies between the wording of the Quran if it is translated into another language, I don’t believe language should play such a big factor in how a religion is spread/taught. Are the people that are learning the Quran in different languages practicing its teachings incorrectly? However, with that being said, I also understand that the Quran is extremely sacred for Muslims. It is a significant part of their religious and social identities. Therefore, its justified that Muslims can only recognize the Quran in its original Arabic language.
On April 6, I attended a film screening and discussion over the documentary, Waking The Green Tiger. Original filmmaker, Gary Marcuse and journalist, Jianquiang Liu, facilitated the discussion that occurred afterwards. Waking the Green Tiger documents the unprecedented campaign against building a dam on the upper Yangtze River in Southwestern China. The film showcases the struggle of environmental activists, villagers, and NGOs to protect the livelihood of the villages and the surrounding environment from the construction of a dam at Tiger Leaping Gorge. The film also follows China’s history of environmental degradation and the strengthening of China’s environmental protection agency. The film and presenters were clear on their main points. Although the victory at Tiger Leaping Gorge strengthened the environmental protection agency in China, continued efforts towards unification and awareness must be made to stop future construction. Moreover, the growth and strengthening of the environmental protection agency portrays more than just strides towards bettering the environment. This movement presents key elements in the creation of democracy in China.
The film screening and discussion allowed me to learn about China’s history and current circumstances. During the Great Leap Forward, Mao Zedong adopted the belief that “man must conquer nature”. As a result, men, woman, and children participated in environmental campaigns that led to severe cases of pollution and environmental degradation. At this point, people who disagreed with the chairman’s movements were punished in the name of treason. However, today, the growth of green activism and the spread of knowledge on human rights have allowed people in China to take bigger roles in protecting the environment. This showcases the evolution of a more democratic China as people are beginning to understand their rights.
Overall, I found the documentary to be extremely enriching. This documentary largely related to my Understanding the Global Community class because it showcased the power and inequality within China. The issue documented in this documentary showcases power and inequality within China as it portrays China’s structural violence. For instance, in Tianba, a small town in the Sichuan province, the building of a dam cost the rural villagers their livelihood and their homes. The villagers in the film indicated that the government left them with nothing after relocating them from their submerged homes. The lack of compensation for the rural farmers portrays structural violence within China as urban families are treated much better than their rural counterparts. Moreover, the Hukou system within China bars these villagers from migrating elsewhere to find better living conditions. It becomes evident that building the dams benefits the urban people in developed cities much more than it does their rural counterparts who must suffer the consequences.
All in all, even through I don’t know much about China’s social and political environment, I agreed with many of the points the speaker mentioned throughout the Q and A session. As movements like China’s Green Movement are gaining strength, people will continue to vouch for their rights. The success of political movements like the campaign at Tiger Leaping Gorge ushers confidence in the common people and political activist to unify and push for change. However, I believe that there are still many challenges these movements must face as there are still large restrictions on what can be said and done in China.
During international week, I had the opportunity to attend a seminar on water security on the Kabul River Basin. The Kabul River Basin is a body of water that emerges in the mountains of Afghanistan and empties into Pakistan. It’s evidently, a large body of water shared by both countries. This body of water is relied on as a water source for millions of Afghanistan and Pakistan people. However, due to factors like climate change, insufficient use of water, increasing populations, and outdated irrigation systems, water scarcity is threatening the livelihood of millions and creating political blame and water related conflicts. The speaker of seminar, Sher Jan Ahmadzai, explained that he believed the situation in this region can only be alleviated by bilateral cooperation between states, the development of trust and objectivity, and the sharing of information and data. One thing is certain, as it stands now the water security crisis on the Kabul River Basin cannot be avoided in the future.
The issue of water security is prominent in parts of Africa and the Middle East as lack of development, social structure, and increasing population densities play a large role in the depletion of water. Although I don’t know a lot about water security in Afganistan and Pakistan, I found this topic relatively interesting. Like mentioned in the seminar, Pakistan and Afghanistan already have a long-standing history of social and political strife as the two nations stemmed from the same revolutionary period. On top of that, in more recent decades, the rise of nationalist rebels and signs of terrorism has caused relations to deteriorate. Relating to international law and communication, it’ll be extremely difficult for Pakistan and Afghanistan to cooperate with one another to regulate water usage. In this region, water conflict seems to be inevitable. This leads me to my first questions. Given the urgency of the situation, would an international organization like the United Nations be able to help Pakistan and Afghanistan reach an agreement with one another? In our readings, this week we’re learning about international organizations and international law. I believe as water scarcity continues to grow in these areas and relationships start to deteriorate between the countries facing these issues, that conflicts caused by water scarcity will eventually become larger international conflicts. Moreover, more developed countries are likely to be involved as highly developed countries are linked to climate change. In this case, climate change has caused not only the quick evaporation of the water within the basin, but also the melting of the glaciers that are the source of river.
My second question for this seminar is that as populations are pushed out of the Kabul River Basin in Afghanistan and Pakistan, how will social and environmental inequality begin to shape their lives? As millions begin to push out of these regions, they will most likely try to find new lives in already overpopulated cities and towns in Pakistan and Afghanistan. This will most likely cause flairs of social inequality to increase as the rich will try to starve out resources for themselves and their families. Refugees will most likely be subject to some form of social inequality as their livelihoods will change.
Overall, issues with water scarcity like the Kabul River Basin will become more prominent in years to come as these issues affect more than just the rural populations near the rivers/bodies of water. Therefore, like Sher Jan Ahmadzai mentioned, it’s extremely important for these areas to develop trust and cooperation with one another to ensure a better future for the millions affected. However, only time will tell if these areas are willing to negotiate with one another for the greater good of their countries.
This semester I also had the opportunity to attend a segment of the Forum on Democracy called Identities Under Surveillance. The speaker, Dr. Mirelsie Vasquez, spoke about the impacts of stricter immigration laws and deportation on immigrants and their families. Dr. Vasquez’s main point was that despite the new laws and racial stereotypes, immigrants should still be considered people. The United States is slowly being consumed by xenophobic tendencies as people are becoming more discriminatory towards immigrants. As a result, immigrants are often viewed as lazy undesirables or criminals. In some cases, immigrants are accused of taking jobs from blue collared workers. However, the United States and the American Dream is essentially built upon immigrants finding success and freedom in America. Immigrants contribute to the workforce, not take from it. Throughout her lecture Dr. Vasquez mentioned that deportation affects not only the lives of the immigrants who are being deported but the lives of their friends and loved ones as well. Although the men and women who deport often miss out on the chance of having a freer and safer life, their families and friends become subject to losing their loved ones. In her lecture, Dr. Vasquez used the recent example of a hispanic man who committed suicide moments after being deported from the United States to showcase the desperation and oppression felt by many undocumented immigrants as a result of Trump’s crackdown on deportations. In the end of her lecture, Dr. Vasquez reminded the audience that America was built upon the drive and dreams of the immigrants who came here looking for a better life. As a result, as a population we should fight against the unlawful tide of stricter immigration laws and deportation cases. We should welcome immigrants with open arms.
The lecture was extremely eyeopening for me. Although, I’ve never agreed with Trump’s stricter immigration policies or his crackdown on deportation, I was never aware of the severity of the issue. My parents were immigrants themselves. They immigrated over thirty years ago to escape the Vietnam War. Through my parents dedication and hard work, they were able to attain their citizenship in the states and build a stable life for our family. My mother often worked long nights and was lucky enough to even start her own business. I believe criminal activity among immigrants should be looked at as a case by case bases. In no way should immigrants be considered lazy or unlawful because the majority of the time its the complete opposite. Immigrants often have to work longer hours with smaller wages to support their themselves and their families. Moreover, many immigrants also try their best to abide to U.S. laws for fear of trouble or deportation. The fact is that many immigrants come to the United States in hope of creating a better for future for themselves and their families. Many immigrants come to the United States in order to find safety and shelter from the oppressive and dangerous environments they face back at home. For example, this explains the recent influx of Muslim immigrants to Europe. The bigger question is that instead of helping and welcoming these people in the United States, why are vying to send them back? By doing so, we’re not only potentially denying thousands of families and people the safety they deserve, we’re also denying them and their children from attaining the sense of freedom and opportunity present in the United States.
The lecture reminded me of a small memory I had in highschool. I remember sitting in the first few weeks of my speech one class my Freshman year of highschool. My friend, Claudia, went up to give her first major speech on the topic of her choice: immigration. However, instead of receiving the support and recognition that she should have been given during her speech, I remember seeing frowns of disapproval and hearing snide remarks from the upperclassmen in the class. Needless to say, although this issue is receiving recognition among minorities, a lot of work still needs to be done in order to reverse the nature of racial profiling and stereotyping among immigrants and their families. Attention needs to be brought forth to educate the masses on the severity of stricter immigration laws and the nature of deportation.
Mid-semester, I had the opportunity to attend the Forum on Democracy. I originally attended this event as an extra credit event for my Understanding the Global Community class (IAS 2003-001). However, I only had the opportunity to listen to two of the speakers with Dr. John Covaleskie being one of them. Therefore, I never got to use this as an extra-credit event and was thrilled to find out that it counted for a Global Engagement event as well. I took note over what he was saying throughout the lecture and found the experience to be surprisingly enriching. His lecture was over how education was changing in America. Dr. Covaleskie believed that by cutting funding for education, government and state officials were attacking the ideals of Democracy. He believed that, nowadays, students don’t have the ability to think freely and critically. They don’t know how to think for themselves because they are never taught to in school.
Adolescents are not receiving the same education their parents and their grandparents did when they grew up. This in turn hurts Democracy by attacking the public’s ability to think for themselves and those around them. It affects how the next generation views world politics and larger social and political decisions. All in All, I don’t disagree with anything Dr. Covaleskie talked about throughout his lecture. I wish I had asked him how we as the generation effected by educational budget cuts, can educate ourselves and promote critical thinking amongst our peers. However, I didn’t have the confidence to. As it is now I don’t see the battle for education getting very far within the next few years (especially in Oklahoma). However, the issue is prominent and despite setbacks, I believe the cause will endure. The fight for education will indefinitely persist and I know its quality will improve in the future.
After watching Isfahan to Irvine my friends on the international floor of couch invited me to a few of the foreign film clubs. I was hesitant to go at first but then decided to go on impulse. On November 17th I went with a few friends to watch The Year My Parents Went on Vacation. The films plot centers around a young boys experienced as he is derived from the company of his parents amidst growing tensions and political persecution in Brazil. I thought the film was long but worthwhile. Through the film, I got to learn a bit about Brazil and its political situation in the 1970s. Overall, it was an enjoyable experience and I hope to attend a number of the meetings in the future!